There are so many family law firms in Sydney that it can be very difficult to know where to start, especially in a time of great emotional difficulty and strife. This can be compounded if you have never needed a family lawyer before, and find yourself overwhelmed by the amount of stress involved with dealing with complicated legal matters.
In the case of divorce and/or custody disputes, it is very important to hire a capable, experienced and dedicated lawyer who will fight to get the best outcome for you. That is why we have done our research and scoured all the available information we could get our hands on – and here we have the five best places to find the lawyer that is perfect for you!
#1 O’Sullivan Legal
O’Sullivan Legal is operated by Ben O’Sullivan, who spent years successfully practicing at a leading family law firm before starting the law firm. Ben is an expert in family law, as well as having a strong understanding of personal finances due to a retail background and a degree in commerce.
Ben is an acknowledged expert in family law, having appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald several times to explain high profile or complicated family law cases. He has also appeared on The Project, being featured as an expert on complicated family law matters in NSW.
The combination of family law and personal finance expertise makes him the ideal divorce lawyer, especially when the divorcing couple have a complicated financial situation or other unusual arrangements. If your partner is trying to hide money from you, or is otherwise trying to keep you from getting your fair share, Ben will find out and help you to get what you deserve.
Divorce (the most common reason for needing a family lawyer) is complicated, especially when there are children involved. Asset division and custody arrangements can become intertwined, further confusing the process.
For this reason, a reliable family lawyer is essential to help you to firstly understand what is going on and secondly find the best outcome for you and for your children. People generally don’t tend to have a thorough understanding of the law and its objectives, so an experienced lawyer will help you to get everything you are entitled to out of a divorce.
The most common misunderstanding people have about custody arrangements is that they expect them to be fair to both parents. Family law in NSW (and the rest of Australia) is not concerned about fairness where children are concerned – the only consideration is the best interest of the child.
When it comes to asset division, people are also often misinformed (mostly by popular culture, the majority of which is anyway based on American legal systems and experiences). A 50/50 asset division is not the starting point, or the objective of the court.
Rather, numerous factors are taken into account to decide on an equitable and fair distribution (including future earning potential, custody arrangements and any special circumstances).
Due to the complex nature of family law, it is essential to have a lawyer on your side who can both grasp the entirety of your case and the laws which apply and explain everything to you in simple language. Ben O’Sullivan has these traits, as he has demonstrated in his numerous media appearances.
Ben is also well able to help when there are even more complicated issues to work through than custody and asset arrangements. If there are circumstances such as domestic abuse or one spouse relocating, O’Sullivan Legal will make sure that you and your children are looked after.
#2 The Norton Law Group
The Norton Law Group is a large practice and has lawyers who specialise in numerous different areas of family law, from custody arrangements to estate planning. The lawyers at this firm tend to specialise in one area of family law, so they are experts in their individual fields. Norton also offers a free initial consultation.
A simple glance at the Norton Law website will show you the many different areas of law they can help you with, as well as explaining why and what kind of help you need for different family circumstances.
For example, if you have divorced and remarried then your estate planning will, of necessity, be very complicated – especially if you have children from both marriages and/or your new spouse has brought their own children from a prior relationship into the marriage.
Norton has estate planning specialists who will help you to make sure that your money will go exactly where you want it to, and not leave any scope for a legal challenge by your ex-spouse or stepchildren (if, of course, you choose not to include them).
Norton is able is cite over 30 years of experience dealing with legal issues, with prominent lawyers such as Franco Pomare who is a Principal and Law Society Accredited Specialist Family Lawyer. With formal recognition of legal excellence, this makes Franco one of the most high quality representative family lawyers in Sydney.
Moreover, engaging with the Norton Law Group means representation by some highly regarded experts in their respective fields, with many of the group being Accredited Specialists. The Norton Law Group is characterised by extreme professionalism and excellence, who are exceptionally skilled at dealing with family and divorce matters in a manner respectful to the client.
Other complicated family circumstances Norton can help you with include domestic violence or violence allegations (especially in the event of divorce), de facto and LGBTI family situations and adult child maintenance, among numerous others.
Of particular interest to some Norton lawyers is international family law, and sorting out international travel with the children after a separation. Parents are often (understandably) concerned about allowing their child to go overseas with a separated partner, especially when they are visiting a country that their former spouse has family in, or has the capacity to live in.
Norton has experience in helping to negotiate ways to give the parent staying in Australia peace of mind. Whether that be through restricting the child’s visits to countries that have signed the Hague Convention (which allows international child recovery) or by instituting a bond that will only be returned when the child is back in Australia, Norton lawyers can help to find a solution.
#3 Lawyers Plus
Lawyers Plus is another small law firm; however one of its main focuses is on family law (specifically, estate planning and divorce/separation). This includes asset division, child and/or spousal maintenance, custody arrangements, estate planning, probate and the contesting of wills.
The advantage of Lawyers Plus is their small nature; consisting of only three core members alongside other junior lawyers. This is perfect for family and divorce cases where the client is seeking a more relatable and personal relationship with their lawyer, getting to know them on a face-to-face basis. This can reduce anxiety and improve the quality of evidence for the client themselves.
Lawyers Plus will assign you one of their three core members based upon their experience and which member is best to represent you in court. The honest and transparent attitude of Lawyers Plus is very warming and encouraging, as it is quite the opposite of the distanced and more cold engagements with large scale firms.
Lawyers Plus are particularly good when it comes to estate planning, especially if you are worried about a legal challenge coming from someone you have deliberately excluded or someone who will not get as much as they expect.
They will also give your executor all the assistance they need to fight to uphold your last wishes – and not a single document drafted by Lawyers Plus has ever been successfully challenged, modified or overturned!
Rebecca Downey (the lead family law expert at Lawyers Plus) is also very interested in de facto and LGBTI relationship law, so if you fit into these categories then she is the woman to help you if your relationship breaks down.
When a de facto relationship ends, you need to prove that it was a significant relationship and that a lack of settlement would be an injustice if you want to make an asset claim. For example, if you gave up some paid work and did more domestic work to enable your partner to focus on their career then you are probably entitled to a share of their assets – and you might be able to claim spousal maintenance.
Rebecca is excellent when it comes to these matters, and she is an expert at calculating how much you should get of the assets accumulated during the relationship. She is also very good when it comes to divorce proceedings and custody disputes.
#4 Armstrong Legal
Armstrong Legal is another large law firm, and they have lawyers who can help you with just about every aspect of family law. Armstrong tends to focus on the financial aspects of divorce, so they are very good if the asset division is in dispute, or if child or spousal maintenance (or both) is a part of the negotiations.
The Armstrong Legal team deals with individuals experiencing separation on a daily basis in their firm, tackling a wide range of difficult cases. Their lawyers are very sympathetic of the trauma in such a difficult time, and keep clients informed of the situation through every step of the way such as the likely outcome, which more often than not reduces client anxiety.
Perhaps their greatest strongpoint for clients requiring a family lawyer is the expertise that Armstrong Legal has. Their firm consists of over fifty solicitors, which includes specialists in family law who are cited to provide thorough preparation and presentation both when in and outside the court for their clients.
Moreover, Armstrong insists that each of its lawyers only practices law in their own respective specific fields. What this means for prospective clients is that they will only be assigned specialist lawyers who are incredibly knowledgeable about their field to represent them. This is perfect for individuals looking for strong and suitable family and divorce lawyers to represent them.
Armstrong has good negotiators, and they will work very hard to get the best possible outcome for you, as well as being excellent at estimating how much you can reasonably expect to get out of asset division and maintenance.
They can, however, be a little trigger-shy if your former spouse is refusing to “play-ball”, as they are reluctant to go to court. This means that if the break-up was particularly bitter or your ex-partner is not cooperating they may not be as aggressive as necessary – at least at first.
One of the benefits to Armstrong Legal is the large amounts of legal information they provide to potential clients about their relevant cases in simple English text. Armstrong Legal is committed to keeping all parties informed, whether they are clients or as prospective clients. For clients seeking to form a personal relationship with their lawyers, Armstrong Legal is the way to go.
Since 2005, Armstrong Legal has implemented the LAW 9000, an internationally acclaimed management system which demonstrates their commitment to their clients and all parties involved. By using LAW 9000, Armstrong Legal shows the amount of confidence they have in their lawyers, reducing risk management and providing a clear focus and emphasis on clients by using strong communication.
A powerful aspect behind Armstrong Legal’s moral and ethical values is their support for the Cure Cancer Australia Foundation. For each client that provides feedback on Armstrong Legal, they donate $10 to the charity foundation, aiming to help a great cause against cancer. The efforts they have put into charity reflect upon their values as lawyers, which is especially important when looking for a family lawyer to represent you and your case.
#5 Slater and Gordon
Slater and Gordon are the biggest firm on this list by far, and they have many locations across both Australia and the UK. This means that they are almost certain to have a lawyer who is both available and qualified to handle your case – and they have specialists for complicated family law cases such as surrogacy arrangements.
Slater and Gordon have stressed that when dealing with their family and divorce cases, the best way for all parties involved is to avoid court as much as possible. Mediation and negotiation will achieve a better outcome that will save time, money and create a more harmonious relationship than dealing with the emotional turmoil of court itself.
To understand the large scale nature of Slater and Gordon, in Australia alone they have 1,210 people employed across 54 locations. The reason why this is such a large advantage is that Slater and Gordon have specialist lawyers that are bilingual and in their online forms, you can request a specific language of your choice.
Rather, when engaging with small scale firms that do not have many lawyers on hand, as a non-native Australian in an English based legal system, finding a lawyer which can guide you through the legal process comprehensively is difficult. By using Slater and Gordon, you can find someone easily who can communicate all the information you need and more, through your native language. This is an advantage that few other firms than Slater and Gordon can offer.
One of the reliable features of Slater and Gordon was that their founding year was in 1935. The firm had humble beginnings but its success is what has led to its large scale operations. When dealing with Slater and Gordon, you can rely on their guaranteed 80 years of experience and reputation rather than when engaging with relatively newer firms.
Slater and Gordon also offers fixed-fee billing, as opposed to simply billing you for the time they will work, which provides you with certainty around how much you will have to pay for the divorce. If the matter becomes more complicated than you and your lawyer initially expected, however, you will have to pay more.
For prospective clients who do not have access to the funds necessary to begin a legal investigation, Slater and Gordon introduced the no win no fee arrangement. This meant that if your case was unsuccessful, you would not have to pay Slater and Gordon the legal costs that you would have incurred if you had won. This is significant for any person under financial constraints and looking for a family or divorce lawyer.
A potential downside to Slater and Gordon is that they are primarily a consumer law firm. This does not mean that they will not be able to handle your family case, as they do have many family lawyers, but it does mean that family law is a lower priority to the company as a whole.
So there you have it: five of the best family law firms in Sydney, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and their own areas of expertise. Which one will best suit you of course depends on your own specific situation. They should give you the most certainty about costs, while if your divorce is very complicated then you might need O’Sullivan’s expertise and financial skill.